Many of us came home from the first episode of PrintingUnited in Dallas with our heads full of ideas. Next June brings us the next episode of drupa, 49 years after the first edition opened its doors with exciting Automatic Platen letterpress printing technology. Heidelberg ran 19 presses during the show, starting a long tradition of live printing so we could see how the presses looked, sounded, and even smelled. As we approach drupa 2020, we will see more evolution in our industry being led by inkjet technology. In the last episode, the topic was inkjet format options. That first set of guiding questions focused on standalone heads; this episode provides some bullet points as you look at the integrated platforms on offer in Dusseldorf next June.
This episode is a continuation of what to look for in inkjet technology at drupa 2020, with a focus on questions to ask integrated inkjet press manufacturers.
As noted in the last episode, a review of announcements at drupa in the last two decades tells us to listen and admire, but not hold back on investment. If you see a technology actually running at the show that can help you to expand your business, consider it seriously. Don’t wait for promises of newer, faster, wider, more exciting technology 18 to 24 months out, because it may be delayed or reimagined.
Questions for Press Buyers
This drupa will bring an amazing array of equipment we have seen in the past, equipment we are expecting, and maybe a few surprises. From continuous feed to cutsheet with a variety of features, it will be worth your time to walk through every hall to see what is on offer. And, if you can’t make it to the show, look for video and daily reports from your favorite news outlets!
If you can walk the halls yourself, here are some questions to ask the makers of integrated inkjet press solutions to guide your discussions. Integrated presses are those devices that you buy as a solution. They have the paper transport, print heads, control modules, dryers, and digital front ends included as part of the package. Consider capturing this article on your phone for reference!
For Buyers of Integrated Presses:
- What is the width of the printable area? Whether you are moving from offset or toner, or you are expanding your inkjet footprint, take the time to ask about the width of the printable area to ensure that you understand how it will integrate into your environment. If you add barcodes for finishing or tracking, you want to know you can accommodate them without challenging the print files. And, if you are a commercial printer looking at some of the wider devices, pay attention to the files you accept for print today to ensure you will be able to meet the same print dimensions. And while you have their attention, ask the manufacturer what the longest sheet you can print will be. For cutsheet devices, this is somewhat limited by the sheet size, but for continuous devices, there may still be limitations. Even if you don’t require long sheets today, ask what is possible!
- What is the substrate range? The question revolves around several dimensions. What types of substrates can you use? Only pulp paper or can you print on some of the new stocks like Teslin and film? What weight of substrate is approved? Many of the device manufacturers have extended to lighter weights as well as to heavier stocks making it possible to print lightweight catalogs and postcards suitable for mailing. Don’t forget to ask about coated and uncoated, gloss and matte, and even textured stocks. Remember to ask for proof!
- What is the drying technology? This may seem to be in the technology weeds, but many of the manufacturers are updating their drying technology and adding options. Be sure to explain what you print, what your turnaround times and finishing requirements are so that they can provide the best drying guidance.
- Where do you buy ink? Some vendors require you to buy ink from them while others provide a list of approved ink vendors. Know before you go!
- Who are their partners? They may not sway your decision, but it’s good to know if you already work with suppliers who they also partner with in case something goes awry! This is especially true for finishing and workflow vendors.
Remember, there are a million questions in inkjet city! Have questions? Ping me on LinkedIn or drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org.